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Risky business is just the way joker Paddy Barnes likes it as he steps up a level

 

By David Kelly

Paddy Barnes brightens up any press conference with his snap, crackle and pop wit but even he had to get serious when talking about a major step up in class on June 17 at the Waterfront Hall.

Fellow Belfast flyweight Luke Wilton was the one feeling the sharp end of his shtick, having failed to agree terms, while his Spanish opponent next month - along with himself - was also in the firing line.

Two-time Olympic bronze medallist Barnes meets Spaniard Silvio Olteanu, who despite a patchy record of 16 wins, 11 defeats and a draw, is a former European champion and WBA world title challenger and certainly not your average third fight opponent.

"It's a bit of a gamble and I have to be on my game or I will lose," said Barnes, who described Olteanu as "a poor man's Kiko Martinez, he likes to come forward and he's bald!"

The Spaniard is nevertheless a significant test for professional novice Barnes who is jumping up to 10 rounds in this WBO European flyweight title fight.

"I always said that I wanted to move fast… I've fought two journeymen so far and looked terrible and now I'm going from that to a former European champion," said Barnes.

"I've fought the best boxers all my life when on the Irish team as an amateur and now I want to do the same as a professional.

"That's what gives me confidence about stepping up from six to 10 rounds in my third fight. I fight better when the opponent is better, when I'm more nervous, there's more at stake.

"I know it's going to be a tough challenge and moving up to 10 rounds is a challenge in itself.

"It's alright getting physically fit but it's about being mentally ready to fight, knowing that I have to pace it differently.

"After this it will be one of the boxes ticked off, doing a 10-rounder - it'll give me invaluable experience against a tough competitor."

It could have been former British title challenger Luke Wilton in the opposite corner and Barnes seemed a little irked that the Belfast derby could not be made.

"Luke Wilton was on the list of guys that I wanted for this fight but he turned it down and he'll never get the chance again," added Barnes.

"The first guy we tried to get was the German champion who was unbeaten in nine fights and he didn't want it and then we offered an Italian who's the European Union champion and he turned it down and then Luke Wilton was offered the fight and I think he wanted too much money.

"So it seems strange that people don't want to fight someone who has only had two professional fights against journeymen.

"Thankfully this Spanish guy agreed to the fight and I think he's going to give me a tough fight - I hope not but I think he will."

Barnes will today jet out to a training base in Spain to start preparation for his headline act at the Waterfront Hall, a show which also features Jamie Conlan along with prospects Steven Ward and Lewis Crocker.

In typically impish manner, Barnes couldn't resist a dig at close friend Conlan.

"There's a lot of great talent on this card and Jamie Conlan as well," said Barnes.

Conlan retorted: "I hope Paddy gets battered!"

Crucially for the Belfast man, a victory on June 17 would elevate him to number 15 in the WBO World rankings and be a major step towards his dream title fight with old Chinese rival Zou Shiming, the current holder.

"I couldn't care less about the belt, I've been European champion as an amateur and that's harder to win than a professional European title," commented Barnes.

"I'll be 15 in the WBO, that's the important thing and closer to a big pay-day against Zou Shiming," he added.

"I love the fact that I'm top of the bill, it's great.

"I hope this fight will generate good support because I'm taking a gamble, it's a risky fight," said Barnes.

The bill also features two good match-ups between Welshman Craig Evans and Dubliner Steven Ormond at lightweight as well as unbeaten Jono Carroll and John Quigley. It should be an intriguing night.

Belfast Telegraph

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